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Five adjustments the Lakers need in Game 2 against Dallas

613284961. The Lakers need to stop playing with a situational attitude. They spent the entire first half of Game 1 testing the waters, but then opportunity struck. Dallas guard Jason Terry made a horrific foul on Lamar Odom near half-court with .7 seconds left in the second quarter, granting him three free throws. As if that wasn't enough, Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki picked up a technical foul after elbowing Ron Artest during the last foul shot, granting the Lakers a total of four foul shots in the last .7 seconds of the first half. For those counting, that equaled the Mavericks' trip to the stripe in the entire second quarter.

If momentum, a loss of composure and a Lakers' 53-44 halftime lead didn't suggest the Mavericks would unravel much like the way they blew a 23-point lead in Game 4 in their first-round series against Portland, surely Dallas sensed that coming when the Lakers went on a 7-0 run to start the third quarter. The Lakers enjoyed a 60-44 lead with 10:37 left in the third quarter with clear skies awaiting them, but instead of continuing to keep the intensity, the Lakers simply let up. 

The Mavericks went on an 11-2 run, the Lakers shot six of 16 from the field following the timeout and they committed three turnovers. Analyze all you want in the factors below, such as the Lakers' inability to stop Dirk Nowitzki, the Lakers' bench coughing up a lead in the fourth quarter, the lacking inside production and the team's horrific play in the final minutes. But had the Lakers still maintained the same intensity, they would've walked away with a Game 1 victory. Of course, offsetting some of the other problems would've likely given the Lakers a win, but the team's situational attitude is more of a deeply rooted cause that contributed to the Lakers unnecessarily going six games against the Hornets and lacking any reliable consistency throughout the season.

2. The Lakers must find a better matchup to stop Nowitzki. I outlined in detail on the previous post how the Lakers had no answer for Nowitzki, who scored 28 points on 11-of-22 shooting, regardless of whether they matched him up with Pau Gasol or Lamar Odom. Gasol either gave him too much space or conceded little, but never threw a body on him. Odom played more physical with Nowitzki, but the Euro forward can still hit off-balance shots through physical contact. One of the solutions might entail matching Nowitzki up on Ron Artest, whose focus on him could give Gasol more energy in being more effective offensively and Odom more room to make sure the Lakers' bench plays cohesively.

Artest has the defensive prowess to at least make shots more difficult for Nowitzki, but should the Lakers implement this strategy, the Lakers are going to go through an exercise on how they cross match accordingly. Nowitzki will still likely guard Gasol, who should take advantage of his lax defense by driving into the lane more. But that will require Gasol and Odom alike making sure they switch on defense so they don't get in Artest's way. Given the Lakers' inconsistency on staying disciplined on rotations, this might create additional problems.

61328612-13. The Lakers need better bench play. It remains to be seen whether Phil Jackson's decision to keep his reserves on the floor  until the 6:37 mark of the fourth quarter will help down the road from a trust standpoint. It's an exercise he often does in the regular season to build that bond and to give the likes of Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol fresh legs to close out the game. But in the case of Game 1, the decision backfired. The Lakers entered the fourth quarter with a 78-71 lead only to see it tighten to 86-83 with 6:39 remaining before Bryant and Gasol checked into the lineup.

Through that stretch, the Lakers went three-of-11 from the field and only gave Bynum a total of three looks inside. That resulted in two missed jumpers and two made free throws, showing Bynum's three of eight clip was far from effective. But doing a better job in finding him open looks inside would've proven to be a better alternative than the other shots they took, which included Matt Barnes, Shannon Brown and Lamar Odom combining for a zero-of-three mark from three-point range, Odom missing a 17-footer and Brown misfiring on a 20-footer. 

With how unreliable the bench has proven in continuing this poor pattern of shot selection, they are very lucky Jackson still showed trust in them. But Bryant didn't mince words one bit when he largely blamed the loss on the team's second unit, a sentiment surely plenty of the starters feel. To get back in their good graces, the bench must show they're worthy of being trusted.

4. The Lakers need to close out the game in better fashion. This very well may be an example of Derek Fisher providing words of encouragement, but he expressed the most disappointment that the Lakers couldn't simply close the game out, arguing the team still had a three-point lead with 6:39 remaining. I'd argue the Lakers' poor play in the third quarter and the unraveling in the fourth quarter proved more significant in the unraveling and that those two variables gave the starters a bad hand to deal. But for the sake of getting the desired result, the Lakers could've swept all the aforementioned issues under the rug had they simply executed on the last play. As much scrutiny as Bryant has gotten for his missed three-pointer, the final play actually proved to be a good look as he curled off a screen Bynum set on Kidd at the top of the key. What's more egregious proved to be the plays leading up to that point. 

That entailed Bryant missing another jumper and committing a turnover. It involved Gasol getting blocked, losing the ball off a dump pass to Bryant and wrongfully fouling Nowitzki on an inbounds play with 19.7 seconds remaining. And it entailed Jackson making a substitution he later regretted, throwing in Andrew Bynum for Lamar Odom. Jackson wanted to send in Steve Blake for Odom instead after seeing the Mavericks were going with a lineup that featured a smaller unit, with Peja Stojakovic replacing Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea subbing in for Shawn Marion. But Jackson argued the officials didn't let him, which he argued "changed the course of the game," considering Bynum tipped Jason Kidd's inbounds pass and Gasol mistakenly fouled Nowitzki at the top of the key en route to a Dallas lead it never relinquished. Had the Lakers rectified on all those late-game decisions, they'd be boasting about how their resilience paid off instead of parsing all the mistakes they made. 

5. The Lakers need a bigger inside presence

The Mavericks pretty much constructed their team as a counterpoint to the Lakers' size, bringing in Chandler and Brandon Haywood in hopes that it could offset the advantage the Lakers mostly enjoy. As more physical the Mavericks seem to have played, the Lakers' poor inside game has more to do with shying away from their skillset. Neither Bynum nor Gasol played aggressively enough to combat Dallas' physical play. The team didn't really look for them either, with indicating the two combined for six field goals at the rim. That's an indictment on the Lakers not setting them up inside and the post players not establishing themselves enough. It's a consistent trend the Lakers have fallen into for far too long.

-- Mark Medina

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Top photo: Lakers power forward Pau Gasol fouls Dallas power forward Dirk Nowitzki on an inbounds play in the final minute of Game 1 on Monday night at Staples Center. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Bottom photo: Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who finished with 36 points, tries to split the defense of Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki and guard Jason Kidd on a drive in the fourth quarter of Game 1 on Monday night at Staples Center. Bryant turned the ball over on the play. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (17)

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Well well well, drama in Lakerville during the playoffs! What else is new? We will crush these Mavs tonight! Go Lakers!!!

Thanks for posting this Black Keys show- haven't seen it before. One of my favorites from them:

Can someone please teach Shannon how to make a basic post entry pass??!!!!

6. Never play Blake, Brown, and Barnes at the same time.

Hello Laker Fans,

As a long time Laker fan I sometime wonder what is wrong with this team? But I will keep the faith because this is my team and I will support them win or lose.



Kobe needs to get his team into the game, but knowing that he's a ball hog...AIN'T gona happen. He'll come out firing from all over the court, then blame other players for not stepping up. He'll take between 20-30 shots with a percentage like 7-28 and the Lakers will try to explain why ROn RON, Fish, Pau, LO, Drew, and the bench didn't do their part. As Kobe has said....he's not CLUTCH. Believe him, he's NOT.

Hey guys. Sorry for the hassle with moderation and delay in comments. But that's why I've done it because of these handlers. I've done this with mixed success but I hope the cream rises to the top

This list should also include "A needed sense of Urgency from Phil". It amazes me how people gloss over the obvious to avoid criticism of a perceived great coach. While up 16 points, if Phil had bothered to stem the tide of the Mav's momentum that got them back into the game, then this article would be about 5 things the Mav's need to do.

It's no coincidence that throughout the season that all of the huge leads that the Lakers had and wasted away are linked to Phil's hesitation to calling timeouts during opponent's runs. Plain and simply, the Lakers play with a sense of urgency when Phil coaches with a sense of urgency. Do you ever notice when the Lakers play crucial games, that he'll call timely timeouts in those games. Check game 7 in the Finals last year. He wasn't letting crazy runs happen for the Celtics in that game.

RA on Dirk is a good thing about 50% of the time, until Mavs adjust out. RA is not really guarding anybody that important this series anyway, so far.............

Posted by: NuggetsCountry | May 04, 2011 at 01:50 PM

I agree put our best guy on dirk Dallas doesn't have anybody thats that much of a perimeter threat for Ron to have to concern himself with.As Dirk goes so does the Mavs.Besides just like Pau, Dirk normally have problems with the shorter more physical player guarding him

Go Lakers!


Did Phil Jackson watch the series between the Mavs and Golden State Warriors a few years ago when the Warriors was the 8th seed. Who did Don Nelson put on Dirk in that series and basically took Dirk out of the series.

Answer? B--NES

It was a sour upset for the Lakers in Tuesdays lost will they make the needed adjustments for the game two must win? Chat with me and tell me what you think at while watching tonight’s game.

Medina something else rises to the top of water as well. GMoney you are on point with your comments. Carry on.

I predict the Lakers to lose.

Phil needs to adopt my 50/10 rule. Whenever the Lakers lose 50% of any lead greater than 10, Phil has to automatically call a timeout.

Hahaha thats why they lost, have ever occur that the Laker is not the same like years ago..they.might look good for the numbers but some team know how they play!! it is sad to say the Laker is done Dallas built to match the Lakers..they good bcoz of there big guy but now so as Dallas..about saying put Barnes on Dirk thats y they lost one year wen they number one in nba those time are over they watch how they play over the years..there is ajust to da game..i would said go Dallas stop the 3peat...other team need a ring too like Dallas

All I have to say is: Pass better set up in the paint better, shot better. stop standing around as if you are looking at the sky. Gasol play quicker and stronger. Just what the coach should be saying and not I do'nt know why we can't hold a lead.

Good write up, Mark Medina. I've always thought your "five points" style of analysis easy to read and to the point.

Artest teamed with Barnes should be guarding Dirk, IMO. Artest just scares the hell out of people: he's a D-monster thug that's colder than a witches' teet. His hands are always grabbin', probin: dangerously BUSY, and a finesse player like Dirk just is NOT that kind a lady, if you know what I mean. Get him all hot and bothered and watch the starch come out of his collar, Ron-ron!

Offense-wise, both of these guys (Artest/Barnes) can frustrate to no end when they have off-shooting nights (in that they keep on shooting anyway) but Ron was my MVP for the Hornets series, and I'm confident he'll come back if he can just hold off going it alone when he's cold. And if Barnes would just be a hero and attack the basket more instead of settlin' on the perimeter....

Overall, I like our chances tonight. The Dallas One-Game-Winning-Streak Ends Now!

Boston Sucks!
Lakers in 5



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